1997 Sermons

Remembering the Foundations 5/25/97

Psalm 11: 3
Page 803 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST was loved, revered, and obeyed by many who worked to build the foundation of this great nation. Their efforts were not without debate, challenge, and conflict.

Our Lord’s intervention in the affairs of state were distinctly evident to the craftsmen construction for the foundation of a new nation. The records of their faith and faithfulness are stored in the archives of our great institutions of learning.

The most memorable section in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ prize- winning novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, concerns a strange disease that invades the old village of Macondo from the surrounding swamp. It is a lethal insomnia like sickness that attacks the entire town. Initially people lose sleep, but the villagers do not feel any bodily fatigue at all. A more critical effect slowly manifests itself – loss of memory. Gradually victims realize they can no longer recall the past. Soon they find they cannot remember the name or the meaning of the simplest things used every day. They cannot remember the identity of other people, even those closest to them. Finally, the dementia is complete and their own sense of identity is erased from consciousness and memory.

One villager, Aureliano Buendia, conceives a way to try to stave off the loss of memory. He writes the name of everything on pieces of paper and pastes them to the objects to recall what they are. All the people begin doing it in their homes. Finally the whole village is marked: table, chair, clock, door, bed, toothbrush, knife, water faucet! Animals, flowers and trees are also identified in this way: cow, goat, banana tree, orchid flower. Alas, what happens when things will be recognized by the label but no one will remember their use?

So labels are made more specific. “This is a cow. She must be milked every morning so that she will produce milk. The milk must be boiled on the stove in order to be mixed with coffee to make coffee and milk.”

Someone puts a sign at the beginning of the road into the swamp: “This is your town, Macondo.” Someone else posts a sign on main street announcing: “God exists!” Soon people fear that in time they will not be able to remember the meaning of the written letters on the labels, and they will be forever lost.

One day along the road from the swamp, a strange old man appears, carrying a bulging suitcase and pulling a cart covered with a black cloth. When the stranger discovers the town is suffering from the plague of insomnia and amnesia, he produces a vial of secret potion and cures the town. People can sleep again. Memory returns to them; life comes again, and people once again look forward to tomorrow with hope.

This moving narrative is a telling parable for all as we think of our nation. In how many ways has America become like those stricken citizens of Macondo? We have forgotten where we came from, and we are confused about who we are and why we are here. We have forgotten what life means and what freedom means.

The core values of our society are worth working to restore. Recently Supreme Court Jurist Anthony Scallio said:

Our nation has – – –

Patrick Henry said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but the gospel of Jesus Christ! For this reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”

After his army had been blessed supernaturally with victory over the far superior British forces George Washington said, “The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.”

While speaking of religion and morality as “great pillars of happiness” Washington said, “…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail, in exclusion of religious principle.”

John Adams, Vice-President under Washington, and our nation’s second president, spent ten years in France and England and compared the atheistic republic of France with the government of America which he considered based on Christian principles. He correctly predicted the republic in France would soon fail and it did. It did not have the right foundation according to him. Then he said, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

James Madison, chief architect of the Constitution said, “Religion is the basis and foundation of government.”

John Quincy Adams, our sixth president, noted, “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”

He further noted the future of our nation depended “upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

There is a quiet awakening to the reality that we have currently gone too far in trying to remove God from society.

Recently it was said that separation of church and state is bad history and bad law. The persons making that statement said it ought to be thrown out. Who said that and with what sense of history and law did he make such a statement.

The Honorable William Rhinquist, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court made that comment.

Consider this conclusion: “The separation of church and state has been carried too an extreme.” Joseph Califano, not exactly a member of the religious right, but architect of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.

Speaking of the war against drugs an editorial in “The Wall Street Journal,” March 6, 1996 noted: “Indeed, if we’re going to deploy religious institutions in this war, we’ll first have to get over the idea that the First Amendment means that every mention of religion must be eradicated from the public square. A substance-abuse counselor whose institution gets tax-payer money shouldn’t have to fend off an ACLU suit if he makes prayer part of the therapy.”

Parenthetically, the Supreme Court that banned prayer in public schools consisted of six judges who had no experience as judges but were career politicians.

They completely disregarded previous court decisions.

For example:
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1892, after studying the vital documents of our nation for ten years, made the following ruling: “This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation.”

In 1844 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled: “Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament … be read and taught as a divine revelation in the schools? Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament?”

In 1892 the Court ruled: “The morality of the country is deeply ingrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of other religions.”

Those opposed to rebuilding the foundations employ a red herring technique. Perhaps most persons don’t know what the expression “red herring” means, but in the event anyone doesn’t let me explain. Years ago in England prisoners who escaped were tracked with bloodhound dogs with a very sensitive sense of smell. On occasion an accomplis of an escaped prisoner would drag a fish, a red herring, along the escapees path to divert the dogs which would follow the stronger trail and be diverted.

A red herring today is to accuse those who advocate rebuilding the foundations of being reconstructionist and wanting to revert to Old Testament lifestyle and law making America a theocracy. What they are getting at is always emphasized by their references to stoning certain people. This red herring seeks to divert attention to the extremes of the Old Testament era civil law.

I don’t knowingly know a person who wants America to become a theocracy. I don’t. I don’t think Theo does either. He established ancient Israel as a once and for all example.

What these persons forget is there were three types of law in the Old Testament era.

One was CEREMONIAL LAW. This involved animal sacrifices, rituals, feast days, etc. Most Christian’s believe these were types and symbols used to speak of the coming of Messiah and were fulfilled with the coming of Christ. Ceremonial laws have been fulfilled.

A second kind of law was MORAL LAW. It is this basic law as typified in the Ten Commandments that is still germane.

Another is CIVIL LAW. These were the laws governing crime and punishment. They did include stoning as a means of capital punishment. They were intended for Israel just as our modern laws are designed for our nation. They were applicable then but not to us now.

Most modern Christians know the ceremonial law to be fulfilled and the civil laws of the Old Testament era to be past. It is however the ancient civil law that is used as a red herring by those who say there is a desire to return to a theocracy.

It is the law of morality that is needed today.

It is not the job of the church to change society. It is the job of the church to change individuals who change society.

Here are some personal aspects of the foundation on which individuals can work.

A. Bible study. This right is greatly restricted in school but it is still a privilege in homes. Do you have a personal Bible study program? If not start one.

B. Prayer. I wonder if all who complain about prayer being removed from schools have a good personal private prayer life.

C. Morality. It is incumbent upon us personally to govern ourselves morally. Start with a better understanding of the Ten Commandments and a commitment to know and obey them.

Personal discipline must be reignited.

D. Home mentoring. Not all children are getting insights and information regarding moral values. Horace Mann who directed the development of the public school system in America in the 19th Century said, “…our system earnestly inculcates all Christian morals; it founds its morals on the basis of religion; it welcomes the religion of the Bible…”

Though that was the intent the design has been lost. It must be taught in the home.

E. Public worship must regain its place of primacy and the pulpit its principle mission.

The pulpit must teach\preach the Word of God as the authoritative, divinely inspired, supernaturally authored Word of God.

People must discipline themselves to engage in regular worship as a public expression of devotion.

Christ Still Asks: “Do You Love Me?” 4/20/97

John 21: 1 – 17
Page 1590 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST often endures our embarrassing abuse, denial, and betrayal only to come back compassionately to restore us to an even more meaningful love relationship with Him.

On the eve of His crucifixion His disciples showed no staying power when pressure was applied by the accusing Romans who came to arrest Him in Gethsemane. They became instant mutineers. They betrayed, denied, and abandoned Him. They were a disgrace to their declared devotion as they fled for their lives.

Before we become too condemning we would do well to review our own record. When was the last time you passed the test of stick-a-bility? Has there been a social setting when Christ’s modern day accusers were so in control of the moment that you, feeling the heat, betrayed Him? Have you been caught in a circumstance where you were the minority and rather than lose social or business acceptability you forsook Him? Has there been a time recently when you found it easier to be Politically Correct than Biblically right.

The disciples who deserted had made impressive prior commitments to Him. Only hours before, Peter said, “‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny you!’ And so said all the disciples” (Matthew 26: 35).

What a commitment! What a shallow commitment!

Commitment is essential in order to achieve anything. However, behind public commitment must be the personal resolve to fulfill the intent.

Commitment is the capacity to carry out the intent of a decision long after the emotion that inspired it has faded.

I have seen many make life-changing commitments. Some have made dramatic commitments resulting in radical lifestyle changes. I am inspired each week to look into a sea of faces of those who dare to be different – people of commitment.

I appeal to you not to refuse to make a wholehearted commitment to Christ because some do not live up to their commitments. Many do.

Others fail miserably and are motivated by their failure to renewed resolute commitment that changes them into becoming inflexibly faithful.

Let’s review the aftermath of the disciples’ disgraceful debacle in Gethsemane.

Peter, the bold spokesman for the group in the upper room, left Jerusalem after the crucifixion and went back home to Galilee. Critics of the big fisherman say he gave up and quit. I am persuaded that was not true. The resurrected Christ told the women to whom He appeared to go tell the disciples that He was going before them into Galilee.

Where had Peter fished all of his life? Galilee! When Peter said, “I’m going fishing” what he was saying was, “I am going where Jesus said He would be.” Let’s pick up the drama at that stage. The account is full of illustrative and figurative details. Observe them with me and learn from them.

Fishing can be fulfilling or frustrating. The mother of two young children said to the 12 year old son, “Take your little sister down to the pond fishing.” Reluctantly, but obediently he did only to return a short time later with his little five year old sister. “Why didn’t you stay longer?” asked his mom, “did your little sister make too much noise?” “No,” he said, “there was no need to stay after she ate the bait.”

It helps to get the mood and mentality of the moment in order to understand the event. The disciples had fished all night without catching anything. An unsuccessful fisherman is not a happy camper. There is only one thing more frustrating to a devoted fisherman than not catching anything and that is being embarrassed by being asked if you caught anything. Here they were, casting their nets and mumbling about their miserable state when someone on shore shouts a question: “Have you caught anything?”

Doubtless with a bit of colorful negativism the response was, “Nothing.”

Then the shore side stranger gives them instructions of what to do. “Cast your net on the right side of the ship…” (John 21:6). Some must have thought, “Wise guy. If you know so much about where they are, why aren’t you out here catching them?”

Doubtless there was a moment of deja vu. Where had they heard that before? Right here on the same sea at a happier moment Christ had given them the same instruction and it worked. Again they tried it and caught so many fish in their net they could hardly pull it in and were fearful it would break, it was so full.

Then it dawned on Peter who that was on the shore. Though it was impossible by human standards, it was Christ. The resurrected Lord was actually there with them.

Peter was the first to recognize him. Strange as it may seem to us, they were, in accordance with the custom of the day, fishing nude. Peter threw his cloak around himself and jumped in and started to swim toward Christ. Imagine the exhilaration of the moment. Christ who died was now alive. Peter’s mind began to hyperventilate.

“This is the Christ I saw feed the five thousand on these shores. This is my Lord who walked on these waters. This is the Jesus who healed along the banks of these waters. Here He, this very one, stilled the storm with only a verbal command. This is the Christ — the Christ — the Christ I denied three times.” At this point his approach to Christ must have slowed.

Finally, Peter and the other disciples, who had in Gethsemane formed a post graduate class in failure, gathered on the shore with Christ. Then there was – – –

Now let’s begin to observe various parts of the interchange and see their significance.

Jesus said, “unto them, come and dine” (Vs. 12). The expression “unto them” is dative of advantage, meaning it was to their advantage to do as invited. Whatever Christ asks us to do is always to our advantage.

In the Greek text, “come” is a participle of exhortation. It was the strongest word of instruction He could use.

It is plural and thus the invitation was to all the disciples.

The appeal to “dine” is in the imperative mood, noting it as a command.

It is aorist tense, inferring it was to have future results.

The active voice stresses that each must do it for himself.

These same principles are inherent in all of Christ’s invitations to us.

In the AKJ verse 12 reads, “And none of the disciples durst ask Him, who are you?” “Durst” is old English for “dared.” They knew it was Christ.

There is significant symbolism in the menu.

Christ had a fire built (Vs. 9). Biblically, fire always spoke of judgment. Jesus pictorially walked to the fire, typifying the fact He, too, was their, our, judgment on Calvary.

Ultimate destiny is something most think about often and dismiss immediately under the guise there is plenty of time to deal with that later. Tomorrow! Today, it the Holy Spirits word.

We can deal with Christ now as our Advocate, that is the One who before the eternal tribunal will determine our destiny. Or we can reject Him and stand before Him in that moment as our Adversary.

“He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

If you want proof of Christ serving as the Judge of destiny the celebrated resurrection is that proof.

I had conversation with a Universalists recently. That is a person who believes people are given a second chance after death to be saved. He spoke warmly of God’s prevailing grace that has no end. I marvel over and rejoice in God’s grace. However, Universalism denies God’s justice which is as much a part of His nature as grace.

From a Biblical standpoint our eternal destiny is defined by God’s grace in time only for “…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Bread was provided by Christ. Bread had always symbolized basic provisions. Christ “gave” it to them. This is emblematic of His provisions for us. His provisions make us operative.

Fish were also provided. Fish were a longstanding symbol of productivity.

Judgment always comes first. The fire was foremost.

Next, He provides provisions that enable us to act. He makes our productivity possible.

Sitting there, the eyes of Jesus and Peter must have given darting glances to one another. It is hard to face our disgraces. Finally, their vision met and locked on and Jesus spoke, “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me more than these?” (Vs. 15). “These?” “These” what? Speculation varies as to what the reference might have been. Perhaps it was a reference to – – –

Nearby, Peter’s fishing fleet rocked idly on the sea. They represented considerable wealth. A gesture toward them might have accompanied the question.

Never has the Christian community had greater cause to ponder this question. Our blessings are abundant. It is OK to have material possessions. Wealth is enabled by God. The question relates to priorities. Do we love Him more than the things He gives us?

Though we are citizens of a progressive society, we must not forget that paganism is often progressive. There are certain basic perils of progressive paganism: MATERIALISM, SCIENTISM, SENSUALISM, SOCIALISM, AGNOSTICISM, AND PANTHEISM.

Christ’s question might have related to loving Him more than other people love Him. Peter had boasted earlier of loving Christ more than the others. At Christ’s arrest they had deserted Him.

Do you love Him more than that?

There is a slight twist to this that needs application. The question might have referred to loving Him more than we love other people. Often, approving of Jesus means being disapproved by other people. Ouch, that hurts.

Many Christians live with the attitude: “I came, I saw, I concurred.” Capitulation is not a becoming characteristic of Christianity.

If loving Jesus gets you into hot water, be like the tea kettle — when up to its neck in hot water, it sings. Praise Him.

Now in consideration of the climax of this brief beach encounter, remember Peter had denied Christ three times.

John, the inspired penman who wrote this book, actually finished his account at the end of chapter 20. Then the Holy Spirit moved him to add this post script of chapter 21 to help us see the validity of a return and renewal of relationship with Christ as dramatized by Peter.

Jesus used the name “Simon.” It was his name before Jesus dubbed him “Peter,” the Rock. It indicated a stage of unbelief. It was a reference to Peter’s departure from fellowship.

Two words are used for “love” in this interchange. They have completely different meanings.

AGAPAO, is the Greek word for selfless love being issued from a pure motive. The prototype is God’s love for us.

PHILEO, is the word for brotherly love, fellowship.

To understand this interchange let’s use the Greek words. Got them? Agapao means selfless love. Phileo, means fellowship.

Jesus first asked Peter: “Do you agapao Me?” (Vs. 15). That is, “Do you keep on loving Me with a Divine type love?”

Peter responded, “Yes, I phileo You.” Meaning, “Yes, I am back in fellowship.”

Peter didn’t directly answer Christ question: “Do you have selfless love for Me?” Peter’s response was, “I have brotherly love for You.”

As though Peter had not heard correctly, Christ repeated the question. Peter’s response is the same.

Then Christ used Peter’s term for love and asked, “Do you phileo Me?’ That is, “Are you really back in fellowship?”

Peter’s use of the term “Lord” was the key. It implies submission and commitment.

In response to the three answers of Peter, Christ charged Him each time.

First Christ said, “feed my lambs.” This was an exhortation to minister to immature new converts.

The next two times Christ said “sheep.” Peter was to minister to mature and immature believers.

In His second response Christ actually said, “shepherd My sheep.”

The first and then the final time Christ said, “feed My sheep.” Food for His flock is the first and last need.

Shepherding (guarding) is the central action.

The third inquiry prompted Peter to say, “Lord, you know all things.” This is true. Why then did Christ question Him? To afford Him an opportunity to publicly profess His faith.

That is our reason for public invitations.

After this and other encounters with the resurrected Christ these cowering disciples became changed people. At the peril of their lives they went out and changed the world. Their transformed lives is one of the best proofs of the resurrection. People would not risk their lives to defend a lie or for that matter a disgraced dead man. He was alive and that gave their lives purpose. It does the same for people today.

He is Immanuel, God with us — daily. He still asks, “Do you love me?” What is your answer?